Compassion and Faith

Last updated on October 23, 2023

Chaplain Randy Tingle, supervisor of pastoral care at Fort Sanders Regional.

Focusing on Covenant Health chaplains during Pastoral Care Week

Healthcare encompasses a wide spectrum of needs and the emotional and spiritual well-being of patients and their families are important. That’s where the chaplains of Covenant Health come into play, committed to the highest level of spiritual care and comfort.

Chaplain Randy Tingle, supervisor of pastoral care at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, says the primary role of a chaplain isn’t imposing a particular faith or belief system but meeting patients and their families “where they are at.” In times of crisis, chaplains help us find our strengths and tap into our own belief systems to cope with the challenges at hand.

A Different Kind of Ministry

A chaplain’s role and reach are much broader than traditional bedside ministry. Spiritual, grief, relational, mental health, physical, and esoteric crises all share a common core, and chaplains come alongside the individual to offer support in unpacking these issues.

“Chaplains are uniquely trained to provide spiritual care and comfort to a diverse group of patients with individual spiritual identities and needs,” Chaplain Tingle says, “and therefore add a depth and dimension of care that would otherwise be neglected.”

Covenant Health hospitals are staffed with ordained and clinical pastoral education (CPE) trained chaplains.  Some hospitals use a rotation of local clergy ordained in a mainline tradition to cover spiritual needs. Some hospitals have board-certified chaplains who have received additional training and testing.

Fort Sanders Regional is one of two Covenant Health hospitals with Stephen Ministers. These are volunteers who undergo 50 hours of rigorous training that covers topics like counseling, confidentiality, mental health resources awareness, grief, depression and how to help those who may be having thoughts of suicide.

Stephen Ministry volunteers schedule follow-up visits with patients whom chaplains have determined would benefit from additional care during a time of crisis.

Adapting Care to Changing Needs

Spiritual care teams primarily focus on hospitals, but there are also Covenant Health chaplains who minister to hospice patients and those in palliative care in the home. During the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for hospital staff became as important as caring for the needs of patients and families.

“We developed and facilitated debriefing sessions for the staff who were most directly impacted by the strain of the pandemic,” Chaplain Tingle says. “We also continued care for COVID patients and their families. I personally was with over 130 patient deaths due to COVID.”

A large percentage of many chaplains’ time is spent with the homeless and indigent, who sometimes have a complicated set of needs, including mental health and dependency issues. This expands the role of chaplains even more as they may be called on to help with anything from the basics of food, clothing and shelter to transportation, and access to care.

Chaplain Tingle, an ordained United Methodist clergy, believes it is a privilege to be with patients and their families in hospitals and hospice care. He also says he receives much more than he gives.

“People are most vulnerable during crisis and also most open to personal growth,” Chaplain Tingle says. “It is a blessing to be a part of this sacred time in their lives!”

During Pastoral Care Week, Covenant Health celebrates the chaplains who transcend faith boundaries to help deliver excellent and comprehensive spiritual care to patients, their families and Covenant Health employees. Thank you for your commitment and your calling!

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